Think back to where you were exactly two years ago. If you’re from the United States, you were most likely celebrating Thanksgiving in some capacity. If you’re reading this, you are more than likely also a fan of the National Hockey League. If so, your Thanksgiving was missing something. But what exactly?
Because the NHL lockout of 2012 was still raging on and going strong.
Now, it should go without saying that there are more things than hockey to be thankful for, such as family, friends, and the health and safety of our loved ones. All of those are things that, I would hope, come before hockey. However, as true hockey fans know, the sport and our teams can still rank pretty high on that list, and having hockey this year, and not a lockout, is in my humble opinion definitely something to be thankful for.
Two years ago, the NHL and the players association were at a seemingly impossible impasse. Days and weeks were passing with no progress being made between the two sides. Diehard hockey fans who would have typically been reading and staying up to date about the latest trades, signings, stats, and individual players, instead found themselves researching and learning the odds and ends of legal scenarios, federal mediators, and prior Collective Bargaining Agreements.
When every so often it appeared that a breakthrough was imminent, the hopes of hockey fans across North America were dashed as talks between the Fehr brothers and the Bettman/Daly duo inevitably broke down.
For diehards, it was nothing short of soul crushing.
The lockout officially began in September as training camps were cancelled. That led to October with the cancellation of regular season games, which in turn fed into November, when the Winter Classic was next on the chopping block. When no deal was reached, the league had no choice but to rid the season of the New Year’s Day staple.
Fans accustomed to sitting down and watching NHL hockey on a weekday evening following a hard day’s work, no longer had that “something” to look forward to. Times were different for NHL fans, but not in a good way. There was no hockey, and on some days that felt like a world without happiness.
Ultimately, hockey did return, and now, two years later, the professional hockey world in North America has returned to relative normalcy.
Diehards still die hard for their teams, and the red light still sparks the skipping of a heart beat even among the most hardened hockey fans. But even with “our” game back, the dreary, gloomy days of the lockout will not be forgotten.
On this Thanksgiving day, for those hockey fans reading in the US, I hope that in addition to being thankful for your friends, family, loved ones, and anything else you may be thankful for, I hope you remember your old friend hockey.
We’ve experienced what it’s like to go extended periods of time without it, and in case you don’t recall, it wasn’t all that fun. Hockey may not be number one on your list, which probably isn’t a bad thing. But when you step back and think about it, no matter how concerning the struggles of your team are –Oilers fans I’m looking at you – you should at least be happy that they’re hitting the ice at all. Be glad to at least have hockey.
On this Thanksgiving, remember to appreciate the game we love, and smile at the fact that we can kick back, put aside our worries for just a little while, and enjoy the greatest sport on earth.
Remembering how it felt to not have hockey. Then maybe it will make the holes on defense seem just a little bit smaller.
Now, with all of that said; go watch some Thanksgiving football…
Jake Gittler is now in his second season as a contributing member of The Hockey Writers. After spending the 2014-15 season working in Communications for Adirondack Flames of the AHL and covering the New York Rangers here for The Hockey Writers, Jake’s coverage has been switched over to the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 season. Jake can be reached via email at Jakegittler@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Jgittler_hockey.